Subject: Australia Announces Plan To Train E Timorese In Oil Industry

Associated Press October 4, 2000

Australia Announces Plan To Train E Timorese In Oil Indus

CANBERRA (AP)-Australian Industry Minister Nick Minchin announced Wednesday a plan to help train East Timorese people for jobs in the former Indonesian province's fledgeling oil and gas industry.

The announcement came shortly before Australia and East Timorese negotiators begin talks on redrafting a treaty dividing up profits from the rich Timor Gap oil and gas fields under the sea between northern Australia and East Timor.

A joint body set up by Australia, East Timor and the United Nations body steering the province to full statehood has set aside US$700,000 a year for the scheme from royalties paid by oil companies operating in the area.

"This is something constructive we can do to help improve the long term economic outlook for the people of East Timor," Minchin said.

Mari Alkatiri, an East Timorese leader who is minister for economic affairs in the United Nations Transitional Authority in East Timor, welcomed the decision.

The rich petroleum and gas resources of the Timor Gap area were originally to be carved up under the Timor Gap Treaty, negotiated by Indonesia and Australia.

But Indonesia gave up its place in the treaty after the East Timorese voted for independence on Aug. 30 last year.

East Timorese have described the original Timor Gap Treaty as illegal and are seeking a substantial redrafting.

Oil and gas are expected to develop into an important source of income for East Timor along with coffee exports and, in the future, tourism.

Although current production is small, some Australian officials say the region could one of the richest new hydrocarbon areas outside the Middle East.

An estimated US$2.1 billion has been spent to explore and tap its reserves so far.

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